A view of a beach and pier in Carpinteria California
Central Coast

13 Wonderful Things To Do In Carpinteria, California

Tucked away between Ventura and Santa Barbara, Carpinteria is one of the best-hidden gems on the Central California Coast. Boasting a beachfront State Park, stunning ocean views, cozy eateries, and wildlife viewing opportunities, there are so many wonderful things to do in Carpinteria!

As a Central Coast local, I often visit Carpinteria to enjoy a bit of hiking or to stay in a hotel near the beach. Carpinteria has a small-town feel and is such a lovely place to spend a few days.

If you are planning a trip to Carpinteria, here are the 13 best things to do on your visit!

13 Best Things To Do In Carpinteria California:

1. Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria State Beach is one of the top places to go camping on the Central California Coast.

Carpinteria State Beach is a very popular, spacious campground situated right next to the ocean. Here you can camp just steps from the beach while also being close to downtown Carpinteria offering the best of both worlds.

This campground has a variety of campsites for tents, motorhomes, trailers, and group sites ideal for larger parties and families. The sites come with a fire ring, picnic table, and there are flush toilets within the campground. In the evenings you can enjoy beautiful sunset views and wake up to the sounds of the waves crashing against the shoreline.

Many families stay at this campground to disconnect from their busy lives and enjoy a bit of hiking and fresh ocean air. Camping at Carpinteria State Beach is easily one of the top things to do in this region!

If you don’t plan on camping overnight, you can also visit Carpinteria State Beach for the day with a $10 entrance fee.

Tip: Camping reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance on ReserveCalifornia.com here.

2. Carpinteria Bluffs Trail

Beach access along Carpinteria Bluffs Trail.

When visiting Carpinteria, hiking the Carpinteria Bluffs Trail is one of my favorite activities to do here. This is a great place to come enjoy nature and go for a relaxing walk next to the Pacific Ocean.

Carpinteria Bluffs Trail is an easy 2-mile-long hike that connects Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Tar Pits Park. This trail is mostly flat and allows dogs so you can bring your four-legged friends along.

I recommend starting the hike from the Carpinteria Bluffs Trailhead parking lot which is free to visitors. The first section of the trail travels next to the train tracks before crossing them and leading along rugged ocean bluffs.

The trail will pass by a few hidden beaches, a viewpoint of harbor seals, and end at the Tar Pits Park where you can see black tar oozing out of the ground.

3. Stay In a Beachfront Hotel

Cliff House Inn is one of the best hotels in Carpinteria situated right next to the shoreline. This charming hotel offers excellent views of the ocean and has private beach access. During low tide, you can walk down to the beach and explore tide pools that are home to various sea life.

Cliff House Inn features a heated outdoor infinity pool and an onsite Shoals Restaurant where we’ve dined on special occasions. During the stay, you can also enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast to start the day off right!

Book Cliff House Inn Carpinteria here!

4. See Wildlife

Harbor Seals in Carpinteria

Carpinteria is a great place for wildlife viewing opportunities, especially to see the harbor seals. There is a designated Harbor Seal Sanctuary viewing area within Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve where you can observe the harbor seals from a safe distance.

The optimal time to see harbor seals in California is from December to May when they arrive on the beaches to give birth to new pups. If you see any harbor seals on the shoreline, please give them plenty of space and do not approach or scare them away. 

Other marine animals that you can often spot in Carpinteria are migrating whales, dolphins, and a variety of birds.

5. Canzelle Alpacas

Visiting an alpaca farm is one of the most popular family activities in Carpinteria.

Canzelle Alpacas is a small ranch set in the foothills just north of Carpinteria. If you have little ones that like animals, visiting the Canzelle Alpacas farm is one of the best things to do in Carpinteria with kids!

For $31.80 entrance you can take a group tour of the farm and enjoy views of the Channel Islands in the distance.

During the visit, you’ll get to meet a few of the alpacas that reside here, feed, and pet them. The farm has other animals as well including llamas, water buffalo, horses, dogs, chickens, and more!

6. Take a Surfing Lesson

People on a surfing lesson
Taking a surfing lesson is one of the most fun things to do in Carpinteria.

Surfing is a quintessential California beach sport and a must-try on the Central Coast. But if you’ve never been surfing before, it can feel quite intimidating to try it out!

For first-timers, I highly recommend taking a surfing lesson so you can practice catching waves with experienced instructors. This highly-rated surf lesson takes place on Mondo’s Beach just slightly south of Carpinteria so it’s the perfect activity to do on your visit.

This surf lesson is 1.5 hours long and includes everything from surfboards and wetsuits to friendly, encouraging instructors. This activity is also kid-friendly so the whole family can part-take!

Check surfing lesson rates & availability here!

7. Rincon Point

Rincon Point in California

Rincon Point is another lovely beach in Carpinteria. This beach is a bit more hidden and harder to find so it’s not as crowded as Carpinteria State Beach.

You can reach this beach by parking at the Rincon Point Beach Parking Lot off Highway 101. From there, you can follow a short trail down to the beach. There is a vault restroom at the parking lot for visitors to use but no other amenities.

Rincon Point is a much more secluded beach with large rocks and driftwood scattered along its shoreline. We like to bring our dog to this beach and go for a leisurely stroll next to the ocean.

8. Downtown Carpinteria

Aside from nature, beaches and hiking trails, Carpinteria has a small downtown area that we love to frequent for food and drinks. Carpinteria is a sleepy town and most eateries close by 8 pm so you’ll want to plan an early dinner when staying here.

A few of our favorite places to eat in Carpinteria are:

  • Siam Elephant Thai Restaurant. We have family members in LA who will drive out to Carpinteria just to eat at this Thai restaurant – that’s how good it is! They have a small indoor space and a patio with outdoor seating but most people get their food to go.
  • Guichos Eatery. This is one of our favorite Italian restaurants on the coast. We usually grab a couple of their pasta plates to enjoy in the small outdoor seating overlooking the main street in Carpinteria. 
  • The Spot. If you’re looking to grab a quick bite to eat, head over to The Spot! They have an outdoor counter where you can order delicious burgers that won’t break the bank. This is a very popular spot (literally) and there is usually a line of people waiting to order. 

9. Apiary Beverage Co.

Photo by @apiary_

If you enjoy interesting drinks, I recommend stopping by Apiary Beverage Co. in Carpinteria. This is one of the only meaderies in California that sells honey wine, hard kombucha, cider, and other unique beverages. The drinks are brewed with a variety of honey for a sweet, dry taste.

The interior of this brewery is decorated in a boho style with many plants, wood furnishings, and beautiful accents. They also have a small patio where you can sit outside while you sip on the beverages.

For first-time visitors, I suggest grabbing a flight so you can sample a variety of their drinks. If there are specific ones that you like, you can also purchase bottles to take home.

10. Toro Canyon Park

Toro Canyon Park

Toro Canyon Park is a beautiful outdoor space just a 10-minute drive from Carpinteria. This park covers 74 acres of lush landscape including a couple of wilderness trails with ocean views.

For an easier route, I recommend hiking the 1.2-mile-long Toro Canyon Park Trail which has around 200 feet of elevation gain. This trail travels through rolling foothills and leads to a gazebo perched on top of a hill.

For a more challenging trek, take on the Toro Canyon Ridge Trail which is 2.4 miles long with 580 feet of elevation gain. This trail leads up to a viewpoint overlooking the coastline and Loon Point Beach from the summit.

Both routes are dog-friendly and I brought my pup along when I hiked them. Just be sure to keep an eye out for rattle snakes that can be found in this area.

11. Island Brewing Company

If you’re looking for a place to grab drinks, there are a few fun breweries in town! Our favorite is Island Brewing Company which has indoor seating and a spacious outdoor patio that is also pet-friendly.  

Island Brewing Company is an award-winning brewery that serves a variety of beers from IPAs and lagers to more interesting creations such as the Avocado Honey Ale and Starry Night Stout.

On select days you can catch live music performances and food trucks. Be sure to check out their up-to-date event calendar on the Island Brewing Company website here!

12. Franklin Trail

Although the Franklin Trail is marked as 20 miles long on the AllTrails hiking app, don’t let the distance discourage you from doing it! This is one of the best hiking trails in the area set in the foothills just north of Carpinteria.  

Franklin Trail starts at the Franklin Trailhead and climbs up steep switchbacks along a wide road. In about 1.7 miles you will reach Frank’s Bench where you can take a rest break and enjoy the views.

Along this trail, you can see views of the mountains, the beach, and the surrounding avocado orchards. Whenever you start feeling tired, you can just turn around and head back down.

There is almost no shade along this hike so I recommend bringing a hiking hat, polarized sunglasses, sunscreen, and plenty of water for this adventure.

13. Lucky Llama Coffee House

If you’re looking for a place to get your morning caffeine fix in Carpinteria, head over to Lucky Llama Coffee House!

Lucky Llama Coffee House serves a variety of drinks from regular hot coffee to latte, matcha, chai latte, and more interesting options like Mayan Mocha. You can also grab a quick bite to eat and order an acai bowl, bagel, avocado toast, yogurt, or oatmeal for a light yet filling breakfast.

I usually grab my coffee and food to go, but they also have a small patio where you can sit outside and enjoy a breakfast before heading out to explore the area.

With beautiful beaches and a charming small-town atmosphere, Carpinteria is one of the best places to visit on the California Coast. If you have any questions about visiting this cozy beach town, let me know in the comments below!

Looking for more things to do around the Central Coast? Check out these posts next:

This post is written by Laura Sausina. Hi, I’m a California local and the founder of the California Wanderland travel blog. I currently live in Ventura County and help 30,000 readers a month discover things to do in Central California! Read more about me here.

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